Morning Press: I-5 Bridge tolls, marijuana sales, helicopter crash

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Here are some of the week's top stories and news you may have missed:

Analysis says tolls can make CRC financially viable

photoThe Interstate 5 bridge spans the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington.

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Charging tolls on Interstate 5 could generate enough money to make the Columbia River Crossing financially viable, Oregon officials said after releasing a new report Tuesday.

An investment-grade analysis found that tolling the I-5 span between Vancouver and Portland could produce $1.35 billion to $1.57 billion in net revenue — enough to make the proposed Interstate 5 Bridge replacement pencil out. Leaders hope to begin construction on the $2.7 billion project next year. Tolling on the existing bridge could begin as early as September 2015, according to the analysis, and would continue until at least 2060.

The report was prepared by project consultant CDM Smith, and released Tuesday by the Oregon Department of Transportation. It comes as project backers prepare to make another push for support from the Oregon Legislature, which convenes in February. A joint legislative committee on the CRC could hold its first hearing as soon as next week.

CDM Smith’s analysis offers the clearest picture yet of what tolling and traffic could look like if the CRC is built — a picture that’s drastically different than the one laid out in the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement in 2011.

Read the full story here.

Clark County may ban pot until feds legalize it

photoClark County Commissioners Tom Mielke, from left, David Madore and Steve Stuart

Clark County commissioners signaled Wednesday they are considering an effective ban on all marijuana-related operations.

With a six-month moratorium set to expire in February, commissioners said during a work session Wednesday they will need to issue another moratorium because they know they won’t have an ordinance on marijuana adopted in time.

They also directed staff to prepare a draft ordinance modeled after Pierce County’s, which sets restrictions on marijuana facilities but includes a whopper of a caveat: “No application for a marijuana-licensed business shall be approved by Pierce County until such time as marijuana is removed from the schedule of controlled substances at 21 U.S.C. sec. 812(c) as evidenced by a slip law available from the Library of Congress.”

In other words, if commissioners end up adopting an ordinance modeled on Pierce County’s, the county won’t allow growing, processing or selling of marijuana in unincorporated areas until the federal government legalizes the drug, said Chris Horne, Clark County’s chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney.

As to whether an effective ban would be legal, Axel Swanson, the county’s senior policy adviser, told commissioners he’s awaiting a written opinion from Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Ferguson was asked Nov. 1 by the chairwoman of the Washington State Liquor Control Board to determine whether local jurisdictions have the authority to ban state-licensed sellers and producers.

Read the full story here.

Report: Benton, Rivers both at fault for spats in the Legislature

photoState Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, left, and State Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver

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State Sen. Don Benton shares blame for a series of unprofessional spats he had last year with Sen. Ann Rivers, administrative officials within the Washington Legislature have ruled.

After reviewing Benton’s respectful workplace complaint against Rivers, officials concluded that both Clark County Republicans violated Senate rules by using demeaning language toward each other. They also found that Benton’s disrespectful treatment of Rivers interfered with her work performance in the Legislature.

In mid-June, Benton, R-Vancouver, held a conference call with reporters, laying out two confrontations he had with Rivers, R-La Center. First, Benton said, Rivers cursed at him on the Senate floor April 19 in front of staff and gallery guests. Then, Benton said Rivers swore at him again on June 3 during a closed-door caucus meeting.

Read the full story here.

Evergreen grad killed in helicopter crash in England

photoCapt. Christopher Stover and his wife, Sarah, on their wedding day, Dec. 1 2012.

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Air Force Capt. Christopher Stover, 28, who grew up in Vancouver and graduated from Evergreen High School in 2004, was one of four crew members killed in a helicopter crash in England on Tuesday.

Stover was serving a three-year deployment in England, and had completed tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to his family. He was married Dec. 1, 2012, to his wife, Sarah, who lives in England. His parents, Maribel and Richard Stover, live in Vancouver.

Capt. Sean M. Ruane, Tech. Sgt. Dale E. Mathews and Staff Sgt. Afton M. Ponce were the other HH-60G crew members killed in the crash on the Norfolk coast Tuesday evening.

Stover was a pilot on the Pave Hawk helicopter, which was performing a low-altitude training mission when the crash occurred, according to the Royal Air Force Lakenheath website. The crash site was described as an area of debris on difficult terrain in a marsh.

Pave Hawks — a modified version of the better-known Black Hawks — are mostly used for combat search-and-rescue missions, mainly to recover downed air crew members or other personnel during war and other hostile situations. They typically practice flying low and fast, often at altitudes of hundreds, rather than thousands, of feet.

Read the full story here.

Library turns new page on formats

photoPlayaway audio book and Playaway video unit in their protective cases, with a hardcover copy of "A Captain's Duty" by Richard Phillips.

(/The Columbian)

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It's a list with lots of slots, including "Wild" in two formats, two versions of Dan Brown's "Inferno" and four takes on "The Hunger Games" franchise.

That leaves 24 other slots for best-selling thrillers and books about pop-culture icons and even a landmark TV series.

They add up to 32 different categories of "most popular" titles distributed by the Fort Vancouver library system in 2013.

While they include the traditional categories of users (adults, young adults, children) and genres (fiction, nonfiction), the categories also illustrate the expanded formats available to library borrowers. Large-print publications and audio books have been around for a while. So have DVDs: "Downton Abbey" led that category in 2013.

Now the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District offers online downloads from two different providers for e-readers.

And take-home technology known as Playaway has become popular now, said Meg Zaleski, the collection management coordinator for the library system.

Read the full story here.

Hudson's Bay dropping to 2A for next sports season

photoThe Hudson's Bay High School football team at August practice.

(/The Columbian)

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Vancouver Public Schools officials confirmed Monday evening that the Hudson's Bay Eagles expect to compete in Class 2A next school year for Washington Interscholastic Activities Association sports.

"These are the final numbers," said Mick Hoffman, the athletic director for Vancouver schools.

Hudson's Bay came in as the largest 2A school in the state and chose not to opt-up to remain in 3A.

"They're going to stay at 2A," Hoffman said. "They declared today."

Columbia River also had 2A numbers, but as expected, the Chieftains opted up to remain in the 3A Greater St. Helens League.

The WIAA released initial enrollment numbers for reclassification in November and revised numbers in December. Schools had until Monday to declare to opt up. With the number of schools that did opt up, the numbers changed in each classification. That brought Hudson's Bay down to the 2A ranks.

Read the full story here.